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    Happily Ever After

    Happily if sappily

    The French film "Happily Ever After" is like "The Seven Year Itch" times 2005, an up-to-date exploration of the restless male, lightweight but not without charm.


    Maybe it's the International Zeitgeist or maybe it's simply an International paucity of ideas, but numerous European and American filmmakers are currently responsible for a variety of television and film works highlighting the mishegas of the married man.

    Original title: Ils se mari¸rent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants.
    Written and directed by: Yvan Attal.
    Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal, Alain Chabat, Alain Cohen, Emmanuelle Seigner, Angie David, Anouk Aimˇe, Claude Berri, Aurore Clˇment, Marie-Sophie Wilson, Stˇphanie Murat, Ruben Marx, Kitu Gidwani, Sujay Sood, Keith Allen, Carolina Gynning, Chloˇ Combret, Johnny Depp.
    Cinematography: Rˇmy Chevrin.
    Edited by: Jennifer Augˇ.
    In French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    The BBC's "Manchild," about four well-to-do guys in their 50s, was a paradigm for the HBO's American version, "Mind of the Married Man" from Mike Binder, about three w-t-d guys in their 30s. It was "Sex in the City" for boys and this need to discuss life and love in mini-groups, may well be the hallmark of these early years of the 21st century. A far cry from poor Tom Ewell almost 50 years ago in "The Seven Year Itch," forced to dream of dallying with Marilyn Monroe all on his own, sans sympathetic buddies.

    As for married men and their cheating hearts, in his San Francisco Chronicle review of "M of the MM," Tim Goodman stated flat out, "Men can't help themselves. They're dogs." Well, Binder's now moved on from married men to "the mind of the recently dumped wife (that's why she's bitchy)" in his own feature directorial debut — the far better "Upside of Anger," which opened last week. But never fear, here's a Gallic version from director Yvan Attal ("My Wife is an Actress") to fill the void. For "My Wife is an Actress," his debut film, Attal (who actually bears a slight physical resemblance to Binder) co-starred with his real-life wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg, who's also his co-star in "Happily Ever After." Attal has a deft touch with little marital comedies and the couple looks good and works well together.

    In "MwiaA", he's the husband of a successful actress (Gainsbourg) in a childlessness marriage. This time, he's created several couples, both married with children — Vincent (Attal) to Gabrielle (Gainsbourg) and Georges (Alain Chabat) to Natalie (Emmanuelle Seigner) — as well as unmarried, the womanizing Fred (Alain Cohen). The film follows their lives, friendships and fantasies at that dangerous seven-to-ten-year mark. But that old "seven year itch" theme is a tad overworked — even with a French accent.

    What is new (and particular to Attal) is the way he shoots Paris to looks like New York or some other major cosmopolitan city. When the guys go to play soccer in the park, it could be another upscale New York indie shot in Central Park. Even the skyline looks similar — except for the Eiffel Tower, of course. This has to be intentional on Attal's part — perhaps a way of stressing the International (if not universal) themes of his films so far.

    And of course, Gabrielle gets a bit of her own back as she fantasizes about meeting a handsome stranger (a great surprise cameo by a major International star!). Do all married men (and women) cheat or fantasize about cheating? Perhaps, but is that enough reason to continually make movies and television about them doing it? Evidently.

    With some seasoning, Attal et femme could soon match the deeper and more satisfying marital comedies of Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri — the somewhat older, married duet responsible for "The Taste of Others" and the recent "Look at Me"). But for now, as entertaining as his films are, Attal is still a charming lightweight.

    APRIL 13, 2005

    Reader comments on Happily Ever After:

  • Fulfill something into my mind!   from Mizuho, Jun 12, 2005
  • I want to see this movie!   from Candice, Aug 7, 2005

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